Dan Weeks: Setting the stage for a clean energy boom in New Hampshire

For the Monitor
Published: 4/5/2018 12:10:06 AM

For nearly a decade, the debate over energy in New Hampshire has centered on Northern Pass. Whether you support or oppose the 1,100 MW, 192-mile transmission project to bring hydro power from Quebec, the unanimous ruling by the state Site Evaluation Committee brings the contentious issue to a close. Barring a reversal at the SEC or an abrupt injunction by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, Northern Pass is dead.

As Granite Staters battled over one divisive energy project from abroad, our neighbors to the south and west let some 350,000 local solar projects bloom. The effects in terms of energy produced and jobs created in Massachusetts and Vermont stand in stark contrast to New Hampshire’s present path. More importantly, they light the way to a brighter energy future for the Granite State, marked by lower costs and homegrown energy independence.

Consider the economic and environmental gains made by neighboring states – both with equivalent landmass and solar potential to New Hampshire – while policymakers in Concord were locked in a costly debate over Northern Pass.

In Massachusetts, policies designed to encourage homegrown clean power generation and reduce electricity costs have resulted in 1,898 MW of solar on rooftops and once-unproductive land as of 2017 – 73 percent more installed capacity than Northern Pass. Thanks to a forward-thinking and consistent Renewable Portfolio Standard, maintained by both Democratic and Republican administrations, Massachusetts now ranks sixth in the nation in terms of installed solar capacity, close behind presumptive solar behemoths like Arizona and Nevada, and well ahead of the “Sunshine State” of Florida.

Even more remarkable, Massachusetts ranks second after California in terms of solar jobs, with over 500 solar companies employing some 14,582 Bay State workers from sales and marketing to electricians and engineers. Already 311,922 Bay State homes are powered with solar – 30 times the New Hampshire count – and the number is set to double in the next five years as the state adds an additional 1,834 MW of installed capacity. Thanks in part to solar, residential electricity rates are lower in Massachusetts than New Hampshire while commercial rates are on par.

Meanwhile, our neighbor to the west recently joined California, Nevada and Hawaii as one of only four states with over 10 percent of total electricity generated by solar (Massachusetts is at 7.42 percent and New Hampshire at 0.46 percent solar). Although Vermont’s population and GDP are less than half the size of New Hampshire’s, the Green Mountain State has seen a clean energy industry boom with over $472 million in total solar investments in recent years.

Those investments have produced 1,767 local private-sector jobs and 204 MW of installed solar capacity – 22 times higher, as a percentage of electricity generation, than New Hampshire. Not surprisingly, Vermont families and businesses enjoy lower rates of electricity than their counterparts in New Hampshire.

Although Vermont and Massachusetts are different in many ways, both states have achieved rapid private-sector job growth and clean energy capacity thanks to consistent, forward-thinking energy policies under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

The lesson for New Hampshire’s leaders is clear: If we want a secure, predictable path to meeting our 21st-century energy needs while adding jobs, containing costs and protecting our environment, the answer does not lie in massive energy imports from abroad but in clean renewable energy generation at home.

There are three simple steps lawmakers in Concord can take this year to move New Hampshire forward to a brighter energy future.

First, state representatives should join their counterparts in the senate by lifting the artificial 1 MW net metering cap that currently constrains clean power generation. The bipartisan Senate Bill 446, which Gov. Chris Sununu has pledged to sign, would allow cities and towns to put capped landfills and other polluted public lands back into use for both revenue and renewable energy.

Second, lawmakers should update group net metering guidelines under another bipartisan bill, SB 321, so solar customer-generators can offset multiple meters while maintaining competitive energy supply.

Finally, state senators should join their colleagues in the house by protecting the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, under HB 559, and the crucial incentives it provides for energy efficiency. Already those incentives have helped thousands of Granite State businesses and families – especially those on low incomes – cut costs and carbon emissions.

These steps, together with raising the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard from its measly 0.7 percent solar requirement, will send a clear signal to the clean energy industry that New Hampshire is open for business. It is time we looked past Northern Pass to homegrown energy independence and a brighter energy future.

(Dan Weeks is Chair of the Nashua Environment & Energy Committee and Director of Market Development for ReVision Energy in Concord.)

Stay informed with our free email updates
Concord Monitor Daily Headlines
Concord Monitor Breaking News
Concord Monitor Dining & Entertainment
Concord Monitor Report For America Education
Concord Monitor Report For America Health
Concord Monitor Real Estate
Concord Monitor Sports
Concord Monitor Suncook Valley
Concord Monitor Contests & Promotions
Concord Monitor Weekly Most Popular
Concord Monitor Granite Geek
Concord Monitor Monitor Marquee
Concord Monitor Hopkinton
Concord Monitor Politics
Concord Monitor MY CONCORD
Concord Monitor Franklin

Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301


© 2021 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy

Customer Service

Social Media


View All Sections

Part of the Newspapers of New England Family